After restraining himself from tweeting about his former lawyer’s guilty plea for all of Tuesday, President Trump broke his Twitter silence Wednesday, issuing a series of tweets addressing his “fixer”-turned-“flipper” Michael Cohen implicating him in potential campaign finance violations. In one of the tweets, Trump cited an incident involving the 2008 Obama campaign as evidence that this was much ado about nothing.
Trump started off Wednesday by trolling his embattled ex-attorney with a one-liner. “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” he wrote.
About an hour later, Trump expressed his sympathy for his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who he suggested was treated unfairly by the “justice” system and who he praised for refusing to “make up stories,” unlike Cohen.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ — make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!” Trump tweeted, adding, “A large number of counts, ten, could not even be decided in the Paul Manafort case. Witch Hunt!”
Trump followed up that tweet by slamming Cohen for pleading guilty to something that is “not a crime,” citing the Obama campaign’s reporting fine as evidence that the issue has been blown out of proportion.
“Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime,” Trump wrote. “President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!”
Trump is referencing a massive fine levied against the Obama 2008 campaign for campaign reporting violations. In a 2013 piece for Politico, Maggie Haberman detailed what led to the Federal Election Committee levying the $375,000 fine — “one of the largest fees ever levied against a presidential campaign”:
The major sticking point for the FEC appeared to be a series of missing 48-hour notices for nearly 1,300 contributions totaling more than $1.8 million — an issue that lawyers familiar with the commission’s work say the FEC takes seriously. The notices must be filed on contributions of $1,000 or more that are received within the 20-day window of Election Day.
More than half of those contributions were transferred from the Obama Victory Fund,a joint committee between the campaign and the Democratic National Committee. […]
The document outlined other violations, such as erroneous contribution dates on some campaign reports. The Obama campaign was also late returning some contributions that exceeded the legal limit.
Haberman noted that given the “scope” of the campaign’s unprecedented fundraising effort, officials said “the infractions were relatively minor.”
In its coverage of Trump’s reminder about the Obama campaign’s reporting violations, NBC News made sure to underscore that Obama’s violations were “markedly different” than Trump’s alleged violations:
That case appears markedly different from the details emerging about the violation pleaded to by Cohen on Tuesday. Administrative errors by campaigns are commonplace and are often settled with fines. But willful violations of the campaign finance laws are considered crimes, and have been successfully prosecuted by the Election Crimes Branch, which is in the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice.